A Brief Note on Recent Events

Mostly replicating what I said earlier today on Twitter, but it’s worth repeating:

A few folks are giving me credit for Random House’s contract revisions, so let me be the first to say: Thanks, but no. At the very least, there many other people and organizations who deserve more credit. In particular Victoria Strauss, who has been covering this all for Writer Beware, and who has been doing so much in public and behind the scenes, gets my vote as the key person here. She was fantastic in initially bringing the issue to light and keeping everyone updated.

Several writers organizations (SFWA, RWA and HWA notably) brought attention to the issue, kept their members updated and gave them advice, or were in communication with Random House in one manner or another. Writers kept the conversation going online, and media outlets like the Guardian and Publishers Weekly among many others raised the profile of the issue. Last but definitely not least, Random House (and specifically Digital VP Allison Dobson) listened to complaints and concerns and worked in a serious manner to address those concerns.

In short: What I did was the least of what happened. This was a community effort and the community includes the organization the complaints were directed toward.

“We” didn’t win; Random House didn’t lose — or vice versa. What happened was a conversation on where writers and publishers are at this moment in history, in public and in real time. Random House listened and made adjustments based on the feedback it got. This is a praiseworthy event; I am glad they did it, and they deserve credit and thanks for doing so.

What happens at this point is things keep going. Writers’ organizations are going to keep their eyes on publishers, writers will talk to each other, the media will occasionally note what’s going on, and publishers will keep trying to stay in the swim of things as their industry changes, which it always does and is always doing. There will be flashpoints, some things will be resolved and some things won’t and thus will be continued to be watched.

That’s what happened here; we got some things dealt with and some things will continue to be looked at. It will happen again later, too, in a different way, with different actors. It’s how these things work.

12 Comments on “A Brief Note on Recent Events”

  1. Hear, hear. John, have you considered giving lessons to the folks in Washington D.C. on what to say after an agreement is reached? Some might call this “spin”, but I see it as nicely deflecting credit onto others and making everyone look better in the end.

  2. John – An excellent, and gracious summary of how our community worked together to effect an equitable change in a problematic situation. Tip of the hat to you and everyone else who stepped forward to address this issue and kept all of us informed of the progress that was made.

  3. This is such good news. And I was very glad to hear that Random House agreed to change the contract, on hearing the concerns of people in the business. It at least shows a willingness to grow with the times. Very heartwarming, to see the industry band together and to have this reminder that big fish don’t always eat little fish. (We little fish sometimes need the hug :) )

    It was also an excellent lesson on “Read your contract carefully and don’t just sign the first one that’s offered to you”.

    Thank you, John. Yes, I know you’re going to say it wasn’t just you, but some of it was–I want you to know that I appreciate your effort on behalf of myself and all the other new writers.

  4. On behalf of all of those of us who don’t use Twitter, thank you for updating here as well, and congratulations to all for effecting change.

  5. I am not sure the rhetoric I read here would be considered having a discussion, just saying

  6. “We” didn’t win; Random House didn’t lose — or vice versa.

    I disagree to some small extent. Clearly, there was some “win” in the end. But I agree there doesn’t seem to be much “lose” involved. Random House will get more and better writers with a better e-contract, and writers get a better e-contract. So to me it looks like the outcry/objection/reconsideration process produced some real “win” for both along the way.

  7. John, as a reader, I really think WE (readers) won this one. It is in our interest for authors to make enough money to keep writing, and to attract new authors to want to sell us their work, too. So, I have a vested interest on the authors’ side. However, it is also in our interest for publishers to make enough money that they can stay in business, and do all those publishy things (editing, cover design, marketing and so forth), because that also helps to get good things to read into our hands. So I have a vested interest on the publishers’ side, too.

    So I have to say this was not a win-win result, but a win-win-win result!

    Thank you for the part you played in getting this fixed.

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